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2nd July 2013
Lovers meltdown
Title of film: Ghostpoet - Meltdown
Director: Dave Ma
Dave Ma follows up his hit video Clair De Lune with a simple split screen narrative of couples breaking-up. 1.4 catches up with the director about shooting on London buses for Ghostpoet

Australia. England. California. Where does your heart lie? Do you find you have accumulated different cultural sensibilities and how does this inform your work.? For instance your latest video for Ghostpoet looks as if it’s set in London and it’s very perceptive of how relationships work or, rather, breakdown which is emotionally astute for an Australian bloke ( please excuse the racist, sexist comment here but we have some antipodean heritage so know the cliched emotional landscape).

Thanks for the kind words. I guess it would be hard to have not accumulated different cultural sensibilities as I’ve moved around the globe. It’s inevitable, and probably why I started traveling in the first place. You learn a lot traveling, meeting people and by just having to rely on yourself. Growing up in Sydney, I always felt a connection with the outside world. My dad isn’t the archetypal beer drinking, cricket watching ‘aussie bloke’, and most of the guys I went to high school with weren’t either. So, I guess that might be part of what you’ve picked up on. My friends and I weren’t into rugby and I detested the stereotypical jock types growing up.

If I had to choose a part of the world – I’d have to say right now my heart lies in the UK – mainly as that’s where I’ve spent the most time over the last 10 years. I’ve built up quite a fondness for life in London. There really is something for anyone wanting to be creative there. So much happens every night of the week and art and music evolves really quickly too. It’s such a great place to live and one that I’ve seen change a lot since 2003.

That being said…I really miss my high school friends in Sydney, Aussie meat pies and the northern beaches and I’m not complaining about the Californian palm trees and in ‘n’ out burgers.

How long have you been directing?

I’ve been directing since about 2008/9 when I started doing a bunch of Foals videos. In the begining it was all VERY DIY. I was pulling 14hr shifts in a restaurant/bar in East London, sometimes 5-6 days a week and getting videos off the ground on my days off. It’s nice these days to get to devote my time to visual projects. Though I still get the urge sometimes to go out and get a bar job. I miss making mojitos. My pet hate when I’m out at a decent bar is poorly made cocktails.

Ghostpoet is a very simple narrative that makes for compelling viewing due to the subtle body language. How did you go about directing these performances?

In the video the bus scenario felt so familiar to me living in East London because you are always riding the bus home at night. So many evenings coming back up Kingsland Rd or Hackney Rd on a bus and seeing someone that you begin to invent in your mind as being perfect, then they get off and you never see them again. And sometimes that can have an impact on the way you see your current situation. I think thats a pretty universal scenario and most people have probably had that moment when they realise their wandering eye is symptomatic of something a lot deeper.

Filming there were two layers to this – choreographing all the movements of the bus and actors and camera, so that the video would logistically work on screen. And getting the performances. The first thing we did was block out all our movements and timings while the bus was parked up. Then we drove around and had to do it all on a moving bus (making stops at actual bus stops) on a rainy Friday night in East London – which got interesting. After hours of driving a loop round Hackney everyone was pretty in synch with each other and could get a bit more lost in the ‘moment’ that occurs in the video. All the actors were super professional and up for it. I felt for the extras who literally just had to sit on a bus going round Dalston Lane all night.

Please tell us about the shoot – was it simply a shots list that you followed? What did you shoot it on?

We shot on Alexa. Its no substitute for film – but great in low light and obviously allowed us to keep shooting take after take and fucking things up without worrying about film costs. The shot list was literally all our beat points mapped out to the song. We were calling out times as we ran through in real time and everyone fell in line with their cues while I was calling out any extra directions. There was a lot of waiting around and resetting but we got there in the end.

Clair de Lune – which you’ve had a lot of success with on the festival circuit – is a much more involved narrative, how did this story evolve? And was this a completely different process to Ghostpoet?

It’s really gotten a great response at the festivals. That video came about when I first came to LA. I was staying in the Valley and driving around at night listening to the song. It fit the mood of those empty streets at midnight so perfectly. The idea came pretty quickly. There’s definitely a dose of me wanting to drive a car off the road sometimes.

What are you working on now?

I have a few film/video ideas in the pipeline but mainly I’ve been trying to avoid my laptop as much as possible and read a book.
I’ve got an exhibition of some of my music photography in Brisbane later this year which I’m getting ready for.
I’m also working on my Spanish but failing miserably 🙁



Dave Ma